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Symposium Tropical Dissonance: Decolonizing Knowledge Through Ethnographic Archives

Podcasts 13 Jun 17 0

Symposium “Tropical Dissonance: Decolonizing knowledge through ethnographic archives” on Tuesday June 6th 2017. The symposium was organized with the research collective KUNCI Cultural Studies Center (Yogyakarta, Indonesia) as a concluding event of their residency project at the Tropenmuseum. Tropical Dissonance brought together scholars, curators and artists from a wide range of practices to explore the intersections between decolonial research, artistic practices and alternative knowledge production. Focusing on the use of ethnographic objects, or more broadly colonial archives in imperial and post imperial knowledge formation, we wanted to explore the multiple, often hidden, fractured legacies of this colonial past in the present and its impact on how we understand the world today. The contributors of this symposium discussed various methodologies of studying colonial archives and epistemologies, through different sensorial approaches and experiences.

During the symposium speakers addressed questions such as:
1 — If to study is understood as a practice of reflection that involves the interplay between learning and unlearning, what are the modes of study that we can utilize to better understand colonial pasts in the present? What modes of learning or unlearning should we employ to achieve a decolonial practice?
2 — How can we reclaim and reconfigure the ambivalence of colonial desire in its attempts to both “civilize” and “appropriate” otherness through representational economies of education, collection, dispossession and exhibition?
3 — How can we activate the ruins of ethnographic and archival gaze as a means to reorganize knowledge circulations between the tropics and the metropolis from the inside out?
4 — How do these shifting relationships affect the material life of objects (collection, commodity, archive, artefact) and practices of mediation (language, aesthetics, research)?

The symposium started with a conversation between KUNCI and Wayne Modest (Head of the Research Center for Material Culture, which takes as a point of departure, KUNCI’s observations, findings and questions generated over the six weeks of the residency.

The recordings were divided into the following sessions:

1. Introduction by Ferdiansyah Thajib and Sara Giannini-KUNCI (Ferdiansyah Thajib, Nuraini Juliastuti, Fiky Daulay) in conversation with Wayne Modest. Download the audio via this link

2. On Listening, with Adam Bobbette, Carolyn Birdsall and Wendelien van Oldenborgh. Moderated by Syafiatudina. Download the audio via this link

3. On Looking, with Pamela Pattynama, Paul Bijl, Wim Manuhutu. Moderated by Brigitta Isabella. Download the audio via this link

4. Conversation on Exhibiting and Sensing with Fiky Daulay, Nuraini Juliastuti, and Pim Westerkamp. Moderated by Sara Giannini. Download the audio via this link

About Heterotropics #2
The Research Center for Material Culture in collaboration with the research platform Heterotropics, invited KUNCI Cultural Studies Center to be Researchers in Residence at the Tropenmuseum for the period May – June 2017. Heterotropics is curated by Sara Giannini in collaboration with TAAK. KUNCI’s residency project has been done with the kind support of the Research Center for Material Culture, Amsterdamse Fonds voor de Kunst, and Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds.

Symposium Tropical Dissonance, Tropenmuseum, Heterotropics #2, ph: Konstantin Guz

Editor: Fiky Daulay.

Outside Within The Colonial Theatre: an Audio Guide

Podcasts 06 Jun 17 0

This three-parts audio guide is a site-specific intervention realized by the research collective KUNCI Cultural Studies Center (Yogyakarta, Indonesia) in the Netherlands East Indies permanent exhibition at the Tropenmuseum. The guide has been produced in the framework of KUNCI’s 6-week research residency at the Tropenmuseum, a project facilitated by the independent platform Heterotropics and the Research Center for Material Culture. The audio guide can be found online on  and can thus be accessed by everyone, both inside and outside the museum.

The storyline within this guide functions as an alternative reading of the objects being displayed in the permanent exhibition. Inaugurated in 2003, the exhibition is fashioned as a colonial theater which was made to illustrate the century-long colonization of nowadays Indonesia by the Netherlands. Through hyper-realistic life-size mannequins and artifacts of different kinds, the colonial theater aims to provide the audience with narrative sceneries of the daily life in the so-called East Indies, exploring different macro-areas such as ‘Education’, ‘Art’, ‘At Home’, ‘Commerce’, ‘Discovery’, and ‘Presentation’.  The audio guide content is exclusively developed as a critical attempt to address the ineffable gaps lurking in between the spectacular materiality of colonial gaze. Its aim is to unsettle the museum’s visual syntax and rhetoric through the use of sound and its impalpable, ubiquitous, evocative power.

The story that you will be listening to in the guide is voiced by Sulastri, the main fictional character of Buiten het Gareel, a novel written by the Javanese feminist teacher and anti-colonial activist Suwarsih Djojopuspito and published in Dutch in 1940. The novel –which was published in Indonesian only in 1975 under the title Manusia Bebas, or the ‘Free Man’–  chronicles the life of a female teacher and her husband, who organized a ‘wild’ (illegal) school in late colonial West Java. Her narrative moves from personal conflicts to the more political ones–financial difficulties in running the school, challenges in dealing with the school’s internal dynamics and oppressive colonial system. The figure of Sulastri is represented in the museum by a mannequin portraying an Indonesian teacher in the section about “Education in the East Indies”. This mannequin was originally made for the Netherlands East Indies pavilion in the Paris World Exhibition of 1931 and entered the museum’s collection in 1934. Throughout the years this human prop served different roles and assumed different identities, bearing testimony to the various representational practices of Dutch colonial history in the museum.

In this audio guide, the contradiction in Sulastri’s fictitious existence is emphasized by using her body and voice to travel through the time tunnel of history–as the evidence, the eyewitness, the observer, the observed, the victim as well as the survivor of the colonial and postcolonial politics of representation. In our guide Sulastri’s voice weaves a multifold narrative that brings the visitor in and out of the museum, amplifying what is hidden beneath what is obvious. Her voice is presented as an antithesis of the museum’s gaze and as a medium for reclaiming colonial history. The routes in the guide are the sensuous paths  that we choose to zoom in our knowledge and our lack of that history as well as to reposition ourselves towards colonial knowledge formations.


Sulastri’s voice: Nuraini Juliastuti

Scriptwriter: Brigitta Isabella, Nuraini Juliastuti, Syafiatudina

English translation: Ferdiansyah Thajib, Fiky Daulay

Recording technician: Fiky Daulay, Syafiatudina

Audio editor: Syafiatudina, Fiky Daulay

Download the audio file via this link.

Colonial Past in European Memory

Podcasts 06 Jun 17 0

A conversation between KUNCI ( Brigitta Isabella, Ferdiansyah Thajib, Fiky Daulay, Nuraini Juliastuti, Syafiatudina), Sara Giannini (curator of heterotropics project) and Chiara De Cesari, an anthropologist and assistant professor with a double appointment in European Studies and in Cultural Studies at the University of Amsterdam. Cesari’s research broadly focuses on memory, heritage, and broader cultural politics and the ways in which these change under conditions of globalization, particularly the intersection of cultural memory, transnationalism and current transformations of the nation-state. She is also interested in the globalization of contemporary art and forms of creative institutionalism and statecraft.

The conversation was centered on how the inertia of cultural institutions such as museum, facing colonial past in relation to rising discourse of European memory. The discussion was followed by question of materiality of museums’ archive: does the idea of remembering colonial past depart from abundant materials?; do museums see its materials as economic resources or as object of knowledge? The discussion took place in Riouwstraat, on 4th June 2017, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The recording was edited by Fiky Daulay. Download the audio file via this link.

Spatial Glimpse of Amsterdam

Podcasts 03 Jun 17 0

A conversation between Fiky Daulay (KUNCI) and Bortusk, a street artist based in Amsterdam. Bortusk talks about his spatial experience in Amsterdam. The discussion went further revolving around the ease of mobility in the city, the gentrification of surroundings of Tropenmuseum, his artworks and multicultural residential area. This audio file was edited by Fiky Daulay. Download the audio file via this link.

Pak Sarmadji Pengumpul Partikelir

Podcasts 03 Jun 17 0

Pak Sarmadji adalah seorang eksil politik yang telah menetap di Belanda sejak pertengahan 70an. Ketika politik Indonesia bergejolak di 1965, ia masih menjadi mahasiswa di Beijing. Setelah pencabutan paspor dan kewarganegaraannya, oleh rezim Orde Baru, ia terpaksa untuk tinggal di Beijing. Percakapan ini merekam sebagian cerita hidupnya-perasaan terhadap Indonesia, yang berujung didirikannya Perhimpunan Dokumentasi Indonesia. Percakapan ini berada di seputar penggunaan arsip sebagai sebuah cara untuk mengatasi kesedihan and melankoli lainnya. Terlebih dari semua hal tersebut, ia adalah sebuah seni bertahan dan tetap hidup di tengah kesulitan. Dalam rekaman ini, Pak Sarmadji bercakap-cakap dengan Brigitta Isabella, Fiky Daulay, Nuraini Juliastuti, Syafiatudina dan Wok The Rock. Rekaman ini diedit oleh Syafiatudina. Unduh file audio melalui tautan ini.

Mr Sarmadji is an Indonesian political exile who has been living in the Netherlands since mid 1970s. When the Indonesian politics was in turmoil in 1965, he was a student in Beijing. To follow the confiscation of his passport, and his Indonesian nationality, by the Indonesian New Order regime, he was forced to stay in Beijing. The conversation chronicles parts of his life stories–the feelings towards Indonesia, which lead to the establishment of Perhimpunan Dokumentasi Indonesia. It is about managing archives as a way to overcome sadness and other melancholies. Above all it is about the art of perseverance and how to keep on living amidst difficulties. In this audio, Mr Sarmadji was in conversation with Brigitta Isabella, Fiky Daulay, Nuraini Juliastuti, Syafiatudina and Wok The Rock. This recording was edited by Syafiatudina. Download the audio file via this link.

Stolen Documents, Authenticity and Politics of Archiving

Podcasts 03 Jun 17 0

A conversation aired inside Tropenmuseum between KUNCI (Brigitta Isabella, Fiky Daulay and Nuraini Juliastuti), Sara Giannini (curator of Heterotropics project) and Michael Karabinos, an artist-archivist based in Amsterdam. His research tells us about a controversial archive called Djogja Documenten which was seized by the Dutch army during the second aggression in 1948. His exploration on the return of displaced archive implies crucial moment Indonesia-Netherlands recovered cooperation as Suharto took power. The discussion was followed by his archival project about Van Abbe’s tobacco business. The discussion later revolves around the question of authenticity and politics of archiving. Download the audio file via this link.

Indonesian Students Movements Before the Independence

Podcasts 02 Jun 17 0

A conversation between KUNCI (Brigitta Isabella, Fiky Daulay and Nuraini Juliastuti) and Klaas Stutje. Stutje is a researcher for International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam. Klaas Stutje takes part in the larger research program called ‘Four Centuries of Labor Camps: War, Rehabilitation, Ethnicity’, which is financed by the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research and carried out by IISH and the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies. The conversation about his research departs by complicating Netherlands as a site that encouraged modern education for paternalistic independence formation from Dutch perspective. His research rather discussed the role of Indonesian students organisation ‘Perhimpunan Indonesia’ as a network of people that allowed them to get connected in wider and diverse social movements in European cities. This network later shaped the idea of nationalist movement in Indonesia. Download the audio file via this link. This audio was edited by Fiky Daulay.

Archive Tour at IISH

Podcasts 02 Jun 17 0

A tour at International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam, hosted by Klaas Stutje. Stutje who is a researcher working at IISH brought us to the storage to look at the archive collection. The tour consisted of explanation on history of the building, research practice and the collection which is mainly dominated by leftist movement related archive. Stutje further explained about the institute practice in collecting, maintaining and re-writing of the archive. The institute also stored archives related to Indonesian social movement in its important period such as decolonization (1945-1949), 65 exile in the Netherlands, and Reformasi. This tour was joined by Brigitta Isabella, Fiky Daulay, Nuraini Juliastuti, Syafiatudina and Sara Giannini (curator of Heterotropics project). Editor: Fiky Daulay

Download the audio file via this link.

Decolonizing and Other Noun-ing

Podcasts 02 Jun 17 0

Ferdiansyah Thajib and Syafiatudina (KUNCI) are in conversation with Yvette Mutumba (ContemporaryAnd, C&) about how to keep doing what needs to be done, institutional practices and the current hype on decolonizing in Europe context. The conversation was conducted in Victoria Park, on 21st May 2017, in Berlin, Germany. Editor: Syafiatudina

Download the audio file via this link.